Pasta primavera is a dish that generally sends me running in the opposite direction. The spring pasta should be nothing more than some briefly sautéed young spring vegetables tossed with pasta and a bit of olive oil, butter, or cream, but more often than not it's a gloopy plate of (usually frozen) peas and carrots in a slick of heavy alfredo sauce on top of pasta (that's been overcooked beyond recognition).
These Egg Noodles with Fava Beans, Leeks, and Morels from Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian is a fresh take on pasta primavera for all of us who have relegated the 1980s-popular dish to the dusty halls of dishes that have gone out of fashion.
It's a plate of pasta that brings together all of the wonderful vegetal elements of spring and pairs them with just the right amount of butter, cream, and pasta.
Nutty fresh fava beans, sweet oniony leeks, and earthy morels are sautéed together with butter and doused with cream to make a sauce that coats the egg-based pasta perfectly without overwhelming. As you might deduce from the list of ingredients for this recipe, it's a rich pasta, but not overly so.
The cream and butter are simply a means of extending the spring flavors of the vegetables. The simmering and reducing infuse the cream with all of the sweet, leeky goodness and all of the mushroomy flavors of the morels. And if you are one to go straight for the parmesan before tasting the pasta, I'd take a minute to consider the flavors of this dish before grating—this might be one of the only pastas where cheese would be superfluous.
A final word of advice for those serving this pasta: leeks and morels are seriously sandy. Make sure you've washed and soaked all of your ingredients before they hit the sauté pan, otherwise you'll have a plate of deliciously creamy pasta that's unfortunately gritty.
Win Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods to give away this week.
- 4 small leeks, white and light green parts only
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh fava beans (also known as broad beans), shelled if still in pods, or 1½ cups shelled fresh or frozen fava beans (do not thaw if frozen), inner hull still on
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 pound morels or other mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed
- 1 pound fresh tagliatelle or fettuccine, preferably egg based
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, optional
Cut each leek in half lengthwise. On a cutting board, place 1 leek half cut-side down, then slice it lengthwise into very thin julienne strips. Repeat with the other leek halves. Set aside.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, add the fresh (or frozen) shelled fava beans. Cook for 1 minute (or 2 minutes if frozen). Using a large slotted spoon, quickly remove the beans to a colander set over a large bowl. (The bean- blanching water will be used to cook the noodles, so keep the water at a simmer.) Rinse the beans under cold running water until cool. Using your fingers or a paring knife, carefully tear open the outer hull of each bean. Gently squeeze the fava beans into a small bowl; set aside. Discard the hulls.
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, toss to coat with the butter, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are wilted and tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the morels, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid released from the mushrooms has been reabsorbed, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the fava beans, cream, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Return the bean-blanching water to a boil. Add the tagliatelle, stir well, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are slightly undercooked. Using a ladle, remove 1/4 cup of the pasta-cooking water to a small bowl. In a large colander, quickly drain the noodles, then add them into the sauté pan with the sauce. Turn the heat to medium-high and gently toss the noodles with the sauce until they are cooked to al dente, about 1 minute, adding some of the pasta-cooking water if the sauce becomes too thick. Garnish with the scallions, if using, before serving.